Riaad Moosa spoke to our reporter, NONTOBEKO AISHA MKHWANAZI, after the premiere of New Material where he takes the leading role, with supporting actors Joey Rasdien and Carishma Basday.
‘A mixture of Islam, hard work, valuable skills, such as excellent communication and financial literacy, can go a long way,’ says the multi-award-winning comedian, actor and qualified medical doctor.
Born and raised in Grassy Park, Cape Town, Moosa says that he had always dreamed of being a doctor, and it was through opportunities that presented themselves post-apartheid that led him to fall in love with stand-up comedy.
‘I got exposed to the art of stand-up comedy while I was doing my fourth year of medicine at the University of Cape Town while at a little comedy show, and I saw this comedian who was a very quirky guy with a towel, and he made quirky jokes. I then got interested in the art and started hanging out with comedians, and eventually started doing it myself,’ said Moosa.
His interest was then shaped by his identity. ‘Comedy, particularly stand-up comedy, went through a transition post-1994 because, before, it was a predominantly white art form. After the attainment of democracy, people from different races and backgrounds were now boldly adding their comedic voices to the art form. As a Muslim, it was also an opportunity for me to highlight the prejudices many people have developed about Muslims, and it was through staying true to who I am, a proud Muslim, that more opportunities presented themselves,’ related Moosa.
He highlighted that his journey was not easy and at some point, he was a waiter and he even slept under a bridge for almost a whole year but through perseverance, belief in Allah, he worked his way up. He urges the youth to work on their talent and turn it into a tangible skill. ‘A lot of people have talents but they don’t put in the hard work to develop that talent into a definable and tangible skill so they can use it to produce something that can add value to people’s lives,’ claimed Moosa.
He also encourages those interested in any form of art to find a balance between interests and making ends meet. ‘Despite the hardship I endured, I completed my studies and became a qualified medical doctor. I would then during the daytime work as a doctor and in the evenings do comedy. There was always security in my approach. I only moved on to doing something else once it was financially feasible for me to do so; you know, I started making reasonably good money,’ said Moosa.
He added that among the many dangers of the entertainment industry is the ‘being famous’ aspect of it. ‘So, people want to be famous, yet fame is just a fake by-product. People will treat you like you’re not a human being, therefore, they can switch between liking or not liking you very quickly, and at times some artists drown in the unwanted pressure to always please others and in the process lose their values. This, from an Islamic perspective, is parallel to idolatry, which we as Muslims refute. Don’t forget that all you have and all you are, are due to Allah blessing you. So, your intention should be along the lines of helping others forget about their problems and have a smile on their faces, and also, do not rely on fame for it can also lead to unwanted pride,’ advised Moosa.
He is back on the silver screen, eight years after the release of Material where he played the lead role of Cassim, a young Fordsburg Muslim man determined to make a career as a standup comedian in spite of the objections of his fabric-shop-owning father, Ebrahim Kaif, played by Vincent Ibrahim.
The sequel, New Material, has the theme of personal ambition versus family responsibility. In this film, the audiences are reunited with Cassim, who is now a career comedian, and he is faced with challenges as he takes steps towards success with lots of bumbling help from his best friend and manager, Yusuf (Joey Rasdien), reluctant acceptance from his father and increasing worry from his wife, Zulfa (Carishma Basday).
Directed by Craig Fremond and produced by Robbie Thorpe, this ground-breaking film also touches on aspects such as fame and other dynamics related to growth, such as true friendship. ‘In this movie, we try and bring more physical comedy. The tone is different; slightly more playful and fast-paced. I’m hoping that we get the balance between comedy and drama because it’s been such an emotional time with COVID and everything, and we can release that energy with laughs,’ concluded Moosa. Catch New Material in cinemas nationwide or on Netflix.